Whittaker withdraws from Perth's UFC 221

Robert Whittaker left punches Yoel Romero in their interim UFC middleweight championship bout in Las Vegas in July

UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker was slated to face Luke Rockhold in the main event at UFC 221, but it appears that an injury has forced "Bobby Knuckles" to the sidelines.

He will now face the victor of Romero versus Rockhold in a unification bout, with all customers who purchased tickets for UFC 221 eligible for a refund.

UFC officials confirmed the news via ESPN on late Friday night.

"I'm beyond disappointed that I'm unable to defend the title in my home country of Australia", Whittaker said, per Okamoto.

Prior to being drafted in to replace Whittaker, Romero had been scheduled to face former two-weight WSOF champion David Branch at UFC on Fox 28 in Orlando, Florida on February 24th - exactly two weeks after the Perth event.

Rockhold, who trains out of American Kickboxing Academy and Combat Club, is looking to recapture a UFC title.

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33-year-old Rockhold, meanwhile, defeated Branch via TKO back in September.

While Whittaker vs. Rockhold was a compelling fight, the event features no other global draws outside fan-favorite heavyweight Mark Hunt, who is set to face the unheralded Curtis Blaydes. He is actually coming off a decision loss to Whittaker for the interim title last July.

Whittaker became the first undisputed UFC champion from Australia when Canadian Georges St-Pierre vacated the middleweight title.in December. Their meeting had been declared an interim title fight due to a lack of championship activity in the division and amidst confusion surrounding Bisping's on again, off again match-up with St-Pierre.

The switch is yet another odd turn in the UFC's middleweight division.

Before that, Rockhold had amassed five victories in a row over key 185lb players like Chris Weidman, Lyoto Machida and Bisping.

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